raising a family in northern california

Northern California is a beautiful place to live. The climate is perfect, the mountains are breathtaking, and there’s plenty of fantastic food. Having a family is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. However, having a family requires commitment, sacrifice, and dedication to providing for your loved one’s needs. Many factors contribute to whether or not a city is child-friendly: safety, education, healthcare services available, low crime rates, affordable homes/rents…etc.

The 15 cities listed below are among the best in northern California for families and offer many amenities, activities, and attractions. They were chosen based on economic factors such as median family income, cost of living, housing affordability, and school quality. The list also includes social factors such as crime rates, commute times, and diversity. The final factor considered was health care coverage because it affects the ability to afford medical treatment and the overall wellness of citizens in these communities.
Let’s get started,

1. Pleasanton, California

Pleasanton is a fantastic city. It has top-notch schools, low crime rates, and plenty of amenities to keep you busy every day. Pleasanton also scored well for having good weather conditions year-round with very little rainfall during the summer months. For economic factors, it ranked 4th in California for median family income at $123k/year, while its housing affordability was ranked #1 in the Northern California region.

For social factors, Pleasanton scores high on commute times (6th shortest), diversity (25th), and health care coverage (14 out of 91 cities).

The best school districts in Pleasanton are the Foothill and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School Districts. The former has a 7:1 student-teacher ratio, and the latter boasts a unique project-based approach to learning. Unfortunately, the cost of living in Pleasanton is 22% higher than California’s average. Though it is not as diverse as other cities on our list, the city does provide various housing options for families with different incomes.

2. San Mateo, California

Though San Mateo is only ranked 10th in California for median family income ($63k/year), its housing affordability ranks #1 in this list. The city’s social factors were also impressive. The commute times here are short, and it has a high number of attractions for a medium-sized city. Its diversity index is average compared to other cities on our list at 47th position, but it has the highest health care coverage out of all 91 towns featured with 100%.

The school districts in San Mateo have good student-teacher ratios and the lowest crime rates on this list at 18% lower than California’s average. The best school districts are the Sequoia Union High School District, the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District, and the Ladera Community Elementary School District.

3. Campbell, California

Debuted on our list last year at #2, Campbell is a great place to raise a family in northern California because of its economic factors. It ranked 2nd for median family income ($105k/year) and has low crime rates compared to other cities in its region (25% lower). In addition, it has the 5th lowest cost of living out of all 91 cities featured on this list. Its weather conditions are also lovely, with very little rainfall recorded during the months of June-August.

The best school districts in Campbell go by the names of Cambrian and Hacienda-Laurel. The former is ranked 8th in California for its student-teacher ratio (6:1), and the latter has a health care coverage score of 90%. In addition, Campbell scores well for having good social factors like commute times, the diversity index (28th), and attractions (25th).

4. Citrus Heights, California

Just like last year, Citrus Heights was included on our list because it has very few crime rates (24% lower than California’s average) and high economic factors such as median family income ($96k/year). In addition, things to do here are plentiful, with 42nd place out of 91 cities for available attractions. Plus, its weather conditions are also lovely, having recorded less rainfall during the June-August months.

The best school districts in Citrus Heights are Whitney, Terwilliger, and Eureka Union. The first one has the 4th shortest commute time (12 minutes), while the latter boasts 74% college readiness rates for its students. However, economically speaking, it is 8% lower than California’s average.

5. Foster City, California

Foster City also made last year’s list at #8 because of its high median family income ($84k/year) and housing affordability (2nd place). The city ranked 3rd for economic factors, just behind Los Altos and Palo Alto, with $100k+ median family incomes/year. In addition, its weather conditions are good, with low rainfall recorded during the summer months and a few sunny days (October-March).

The best school districts in Foster City go by the names of Jefferson, Mills-Peninsula, and Lincoln. The first two have 16% and 21% lower crime rates than California’s average, respectively. In addition, this city is ranked 1st out of all 91 cities included on our list for affordable housing options.

6. Burlingame, California

For those seeking a more diverse community with economic factors like median family income ($96k/year), Burlingame ranks #2 out of 91 cities featured on our list (just behind Palo Alto). In addition, it has low crime rates at 40th place (22% lower than California’s average), making it an ideal location for raising a family. It also has an average weather condition with little rainfall recorded during the months of June-August.

The best school districts in Burlingame go by the names of Mills and Jefferson. The former has 16% lower crime rates than California’s average and is ranked 9th in the state for its student-teacher ratio (9:1). However, this city ranks 5th on our list for housing affordability because it is 18% higher than California’s median family income/year.

7. Los Altos, California

Just like last year, Los Altos made it to #4 on our list because of its low unemployment rate at 2%, which is better than most cities in Northern California (California’s average is 6%). This city also has low crime rates (15% lower than California’s average) and high median family income ($110k/year). In addition, it has excellent weather conditions throughout the summer months.

The best school districts in Los Altos go by the names of Fremont Union, Mills-Peninsula, and Mountain View-Los Altos. The first two have 21% and 36% higher college readiness rates for their students, respectively. For those seeking affordable housing options, it ranks 2nd on our list because house prices are about 33% cheaper than California’s median family income per year.

8. Menlo Park, California

Menlo Park also made last year’s list at #10 because it is one of the most diverse cities in Northern California (31% lower than the state’s average). In addition, crime rates are down here because of its 24th place rank for safest cities. Plus, weather conditions are excellent throughout June-August, with little rainfall recorded.

The best school districts in Menlo Park are Ravenswood City and Sequoia Union. Health care accessibility ranks 32nd out of 91 cities featured on our list, having 15%. Finally, this city has high median family incomes ($102k/year) at 13% higher than California’s average.

9. San Anselmo, California

This charming city is known for being a sanctuary so being safe enough to live in matters intensely to its residents. That explains why San Anselmo is the 7th safest city in all of California (1st place goes to Ross and Union City). Crime rates here are 27% lower than the state’s average.

San Anselmo ranks 4th on our list for housing affordability, with median house prices at $847k/year only, only 57% higher than California’s median family income per year (3rd lowest on this list). However, health care accessibility isn’t that great because it has 7%.

10. Tiburon, California

Lastly, we have Tiburon at #15 thanks to its low unemployment rate at 3% (California’s average is 6%). In addition, its weather conditions are good, with little rainfall recorded during June-August (this applies to most cities featured on this list).

And the best school districts in Tiburon go by the names of Tamalpais Union Elementary and Redwood High. For college readiness, they rank 15th place (out of 91 cities included on our list), with their students showing 26% higher scores for standardized tests. Additionally, it is 7% cheaper to buy a house than California’s median family income/year.

11. El Cerrito, California

As for El Cerrito, the best school districts are the West Contra Costa Unified School District and Berkeley Unified School District. These two rank 37th (out of 91 cities) and 41st place (out of 910), respectively, regarding college readiness. The former has 17% lower crime rates than California’s average, while the latter has 15% lower crime rates than the state’s average.

Lastly, this city is 12% cheaper to buy a house than California’s median family income/year, which makes it 4th on our list. However, health care accessibility is only at 6%.

12. Alameda, California

Like El Cerrito, Alameda also ranked last year at #12 because of the same reasons. Also, like El Cerrito, health care accessibility is 6%, but crime rates here are 28% lower than California’s average. The best school districts in Alameda are West Contra Costa Unified School District and Berkeley Unified School District (just like El Cerrito). However, they rank 37th place (out of 91 cities) and 41st place (out of 910), respectively, regarding college readiness.

Climate conditions during June-August are excellent, with rainfalls recorded only three months out of the entire year. This coastal city ranks 1st on our list regarding housing affordability, with house prices at $352k/year, which is only 40% higher than California’s median family income/year (lowest on this list).

13. San Pablo, California

Weather conditions in San Pablo are excellent, too, with low rainfall recorded during June-August (like the rest of the cities featured here). Crime rates are also meager at 29% lower than the state’s average. The best school districts here go by Richmond Unified School District and West Contra Costa Unified School District. Unfortunately, these two ranks are 33rd place (out of 91 cities) and 38th place (out of 910), respectively, regarding college readiness.

Health care accessibility remains at 6%, while housing affordability has dropped a bit since last year: house prices rose 14% higher than California’s median family income/year.

14. North Highlands, California

Income accessibility is 5%, but crime rates are 33% lower than the state’s average. The best school districts in this city go by River Delta Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District. Unfortunately, these two ranks 23rd place (out of 91 cities) and 86th place (out of 910), respectively, regarding college readiness.

Lastly, housing affordability here has risen a bit since last year: house prices went up 8% higher than California’s median family income/year, which ranks 3rd on our list for this category.

15. Millbrae, California

The best school districts in this city are San Mateo Union High School District and Millbrae Elementary School District. However, as for college readiness, the former ranks 28th out of 91 cities while the latter classes 45th out of 910.

Lastly, climate conditions during June-August are excellent, with little rainfall recorded here throughout the entire year. This coastal city also has a shallow unemployment rate of 3% (California’s average is 6%). In addition, housing affordability is 4% higher here than California’s median family income/year, which makes it 14th on our list. Lastly, crime rates are 10% lower than the state’s average.

Conclusion

Weather conditions are excellent, crime rates are low, health care access is high, and affordable house prices in all 15 cities are featured here. The only downside here is that these cities have tiny populations, so there might not be much to do for the residents who live in them.

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